For this year’s edition of its billion-dollar football video franchise, Electronic Arts teamed up with ESPN to let fans vote on which stud athlete would grace the cover of Madden NFL12. Thirty-two stars were slotted in a tournament bracket, and the contest is now down to two finalists: Peyton Hillis and Michael Vick. Meaning that this year’s coverboy will be either a convicted dog-abuser, or a relatively unsung player you wouldn’t recognize even as he ran you over on his way to the endzone. Though I’m sure the Madden folks believe that their product would sell even with O.J. Simpson on the cover, I’m guessing Vick and Hillis weren’t their top choices to be the face of their game.

It’s tempting to see Vick’s impressive showing as a sign that he’s finally moved past the illegal dog fighting and horrible treatment of animals that landed him in prison for 19 months, but Hillis’ candidacy indicates that the cover vote isn’t exactly a pure popularity contest. (The last two Super Bowl winning quarterbacks, Drew Brees and Aaron Rogers, have been eliminated.)

But let’s not forget the Madden Curse. It’s claimed the seasons and careers of several superstar athletes, including Vick himself. Back in 2003, he graced Madden‘s cover when he was a star with the Atlanta Falcons. Within days of that game’s release, he broke his leg in a preseason game. Is it possible that people who still hold a grudge against Vick, people who believe in the jinx, are actually voting for him?

Do you believe in the jinx, Madden fans? Did you intentionally not vote for your favorite player, so as not to tempt its wrath? And are there dog-lovers — and Tucker Carlsons — out there secretly hoping Vick “wins” the honor for a second time?

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